Reviews & Comments

Dr. Phyllis Chesler’s Endorsement for Soraya Mire’s Book

I could not put this book down. It is a very riveting read. Mire is a divinely determined humanitarian, a woman who has turned her own enormous suffering into a brave campaign to help other women who have also been genitally mutilated in the Arab, Muslim, and African worlds. Mire is unstoppable. She does not spare anyone: not herself, not her family, not her culture which persists in traumatizing and torturing its girls in the name of family purity. Mire carefully, personally, exposes how girls are genitally mutilated, usually without anesthesia, always at the insistence of their mothers and/or grandmothers; she describes exactly how this mutilation leads to lifelong suffering.

Unlike male circumcision, such female genital mutilation means that girls often cannot urinate or menstruate properly; Scar tissue and the sewn-shut vagina leads to agony and serious medical problems. Then, their wedding night becomes a veritable torture chamber as do subsequent childbirths. Many develop horrendous fistulas and are rejected by their families. Mire writes about her own experience of all this—and about her arranged marriage to her first cousin which she fled.

Mire refuses to give up on—or stop loving her family and her people. She tries hard to visualize how her mother was also mutilated before her and also forced into arranged marriages. She shows us how “crazy” (hysterical, depressed, anxious, “wild”) such torture, especially at the hands of other women, beginning with one’s own mother can make someone. But Mire also shows us that suffering can also lead to strength and to truth-telling.

Mire finally allows her mutilation to be surgically reversed and embarks on a fearless course of sex therapy and psychotherapy. In all innocence, she asks questions that would make the proverbial sailor blush.

This is a book about an immigrant woman in exile, about someone who once lived a very luxurious life but who gave it all up for the sake of freedom and dignity. The book is also an ode to female courage and healing against high odds and about the high cost of that courage which includes being ostracized, death-threatened, impoverished, and treated as a “crazy’ woman when she is at her sanest and most heroic.
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